We can only describe it as a surprising happening. The phenomenon that EXO recently showed was one that was unpredicted from a rookie who debuted just over one year ago. ‘Growl,’ which was released over a month ago is still in the top 5 on music charts and their first album <XOXO> and repackage album sales combined together surpassed way over 700 thousand albums. Debuting with ‘MAMA’ in April 2014, after having a hiatus of around one year, they passed ‘Wolf and Beauty’ and can now say they were a success by certainly stamping the name EXO with ‘Growl.’ And during the time of debut the 12 members that were split into EXO-K, Korean promotions team, and EXO-M, Chinese promotions team, have become one like their cheer, “WE ARE ONE” and showed a performance on the next level. In order to ask them how they were able to grow in such a fast time, <IZE> met EXO. EXO interviews that will be revealed throughout four days, the second day, we prepared the way EXO practices together and the back story to their appearance on <Immortal Song.> On top of that, you can also meet Suho and Baekhyun, Chen and Lay’s detailed stories.
Team Practices’ Value
How did you practice for the performance of ‘Growl.’ There must be members who are specialized in rap and vocals since the beginning.
Sehun: For dance, during our trainee period, in the basic class we started learning from bounce and riding the rhythm and starting from the next level, we learned dances that were more and more harder. Because at that time we were individually judged, we needed to match the balance between the skills of a person who dances well and the skills of a person who does not dance well. That is why if we become one team, we try to hold onto someone who dances really well and tries to be in the spot light too much, and try to help someone who is lacking to be better.
Kai: Even after debut, we learned in the aspects that we individually lacking in and taught in the areas that we were good in. Suppose Chanyeolie hyung felt himself that he was lacking in his dance skills, he will go to a member that dances well and ask how he should practice. And because it was a whole practice, we tried to match the choreography angle the same.
Chen: While promoting ‘Wolf and Beauty’ and ‘Growl,’ I ended up using the same room as Kai and after finishing the day’s practice, before we slept, we talked a lot. They were conversations like ‘today it was like this, tomorrow I should do it like this.’ Although he’s a dongsaeng, I had a lot of things I could learn from him. When we practice, because Kai always matches to my level and teaches me how to dance, it was easy to take it in. After listening, the next practice I would do it the way Kai had told me and add gestures. And even then if it wasn’t working, Kai would fix it again.
You must have felt the value of practicing as a team.
Luhan: The meaning was really big. If I was practicing by myself, my skills will exceed slowly, but if in front of friends that dance well, I learn a lot of good things and learn quicker.
Chen: Before I came into the company, I never touched the thing called dance and my training period was short as well. But seeing as how I debuted in a performance group, in the beginning it was really hard. However the members would come hand practice with me whether it be early in the morning or even late at night, and soon I was able to follow these friends. No matter how hard something is, I think we can do everything when with the members. I think that me being bale to dance on stage like this now is all thanks to the members.
When practicing, is there a rule that is autonomously decided.
Sehun: There is not something that we decided on. It is not an atmosphere where we force one to practice. Because we all live together in the dorm and move together, there is no way there can be a member late to practice.
Xiumin: For now, it’s when we do it, let’s do it right.
Baekhyun: Because everyone works hard there is nothing like ‘today let’s do over four hours.’ If amongst the twelve members, one member doesn’t want to practice, we consider that person and let them go to the dorm and for those who want to practice more do it individually. But even then, I think basically we do over eight hours of practice a day. It’s because we must prepare perfectly so that we can show a different side.
Chen: Especially because our hiatus time after ‘MAMA’ was long, we prepared very hard amongst ourselves as well.
In a situation where everyone is tired to the point that they’re going to faint, who is the member that endures till the end.
Baekhyun: If we feel like we’re going to die, then we all rest together. Because we can’t be tired tomorrow because we practiced one more hour today.
Lay: When I see it, I think everyone endures it well. When we really feel like we’re going to die, if we order hamburgers once, then we all gather strength again. (laughter) Once I thought, ‘why is it that when we order hamburgers, we gather strength,’ and I think it’s because when we eat, we gain weight, and then because we have to exercise, we practice harder. And if atmosphere maker Baekhyun makes a hwaiting atmosphere, we all gather strength together.
Does Baekhyun have a know-how on how to make the atmosphere better during a situation where everyone is tired.
Baekhyun: For instance, if someone got a move wrong, I make everyone laugh by expressing that more ridiculously. It’s not like I say something funny and make the atmosphere better. (laughter)
A member that is in charge of that type of role, for your first appearance on <Immortal Song> you went with just Chen, and because you had to be more serious, it must have been nerve wracking.
Baekhyun: If you look at it in one way, because it was the first performance where we were singing in front of many people representing EXO, it was burdensome. Maybe it was because of that, I’m not the type that gets really nervous on stage but I was really nervous then.
Chen: While singing I saw Baekhyun’s hand and it was shaking hard. (laughter) After that, the next time we appeared, we went with a lot of members, and for sure I was able to tell that the difference between when with the members and without was big.
Were the other members who went on able to adjust to it pretty quickly.
D.O: Originally when I stand on stage, I get more nervous than the other members. And because Jeon Youngrok sunbae was in front of of us on <Immortal Song,> I was so nervous I don’t even know if I sang.
Kai: On that program, the session is all live. But we weren’t able to match the song and dance to it because of the situation status. Our turn was the ending performance but because we went in late, the guitarist played for a longer time. (laughter) If we had matched it before hand or if we had more experience, we would have been able to deal with a situation like that better but because we were nervous and on top of that unable to prepare a lot, we were slightly taken aback. Although it could have been better, we worked hard.
Promoting in China
Even then, I think the fact that you guys were able to appear on a program like that, EXO-K and EXO-M promoting together, was something meaningful. Originally Chen and Xiumin debuted in EXO-M but isn’t it hard promoting in an unfamiliar place.
Chen: When the company asked me, “we’re going to have a Chinese and Korean team, what do you think?’ I first answered without any hesitance that I wanted to go into the Chinese team. Of course my parents worried a lot. Because I didn’t even discuss with them and I just said it because I wanted to. But, after debuting and going to China for the first time till now, I think that I made a really good choice. Although there is a language wall between the Chinese fans and I, with just the fact that I can let them hear my song, I am happy. Sometimes fans ask me why I didn’t promote in Korea but either way, EXO is one team. Just because I debuted with EXO-M doesn’t mean I can’t meet with Korean fans and because I can go around with the other members like this, I don’t have anything I feel lacking.
Even then, was there not something that was hard to adjust to.
Xiumin: It was the language aspect. Even if walking the street and I look at the signs, it’s in Chinese and because even the people talk in Chinese, I can’t understand. Because I didn’t go after I learned Chinese perfectly. However now because I adjusted well, the ear that listens and the eyes that see have been pierced through a lot. If I see a sign in Chinese, I end up going, “Uh, I know that!” Should I say that instead, when I go to China I feel a sense of closeness.
When you were tired, the other EXO-M members must have been of support.
Xiumin: It was a relief that the Chinese friends can speak Korean well. Ah, but there were pros and cons. Because they are good at Korean, even when we went to China we communicated smoothly and my Chinese skills didn’t not improve. (laughter)
Tao: To be honest, even during our promotions in China, so we don’t forget, we talked to the hyungs in Korean.
Xiumin: In the end, we received and gave help to one another.
EXO-K members also officially started Chinese promotions starting this year but did you come to agree to these two people’s problems.
Baekhyun: Chinese is especially hard. The intonation is all different and for most people, if they don’t live in China for a long time or study for a long time, it’s hard but the fact that these two promoted until now is really tremendous. When recording the album, because we had to record in Chinese without knowing anything, it was hard.
Chen: These friends are good as well. Although I don’t think it’s better than my skills from debut. (laughter)